It happened right next to the hopscotch grid. One minute I was leaping from one to three and the next I was staring at a woman’s naked breasts.
Andrew Hampson had brought in his Dad’s “The Sun” and was showing off his illicit material to anyone who would look.
There was something odd about this woman, something that immediately made my 8-year-old self uncomfortable. For a start she looked most uncomfortable. Her back was unnaturally bent backwards with her chin jutting up – not to mention other parts of her.
Why would anyone choose to sit like that? I’d never seen a move like that in gymnastics class.
Her skin looked weird, like she’d been covered in baby oil. I hated having that stuff slathered on me after a bath.
The worst bit, though, was her face. She wore the type of uncertain smile I saw friends give the teacher when they thought they were in trouble but couldn’t figure out what for. It was obvious she wanted for positive attention and had done something naughty in desperation to get any attention.
My friend Louise Stanley had once run round the garden taking all her clothes off because she didn’t want to go to school and my mother had explained it was because she was a bit needy and unbalanced .
I had grown up in a pretty relaxed household. On our annual holidays to Corfu or Crete my mum would go topless on the beach. It seemed perfectly natural, not at all like this poor lady in the room so white it looked like the lunatic asylum in a book I was reading, “Masies Stay at the Hospital”
This picture, in what I was told was supposed to be a newspaper (ha! what kind of idiot did Andrew Hampson take me for?), was unfathomably horrible.
One of the other girls came over and in a thoroughly grown up gesture rolled her eyes and said “Tut, Boys” and wandered off again.
Someone told the teacher and the boy (and hopefully his parents) got a thorough telling off for bringing unsuitable material into the school yard.
Nobody mentioned the incident again. Not the teachers in class, not the other children. But I never forgot about the horrible feeling I had looking at the uncomfortable, oily, woman and thinking of all the other Andrew Hampsons and their dads who leered at her.
That feeling came back every time I took the tube to work when I was 22 and working in London. All the bank workers and city types would stand there reading The Sun. It came as little surprise to me that one day a man on the tube crushed up against me and put his hand on one of my breasts.
It came as little surprise to anyone else either. It had happened to every other woman who worked in my office at one time or another. They just rolled their eyes and said “Tut. Men”.